How “A Passion Play – as four sports” came into being

Like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle. That’s what composing A Passion Play was like. It took me eleven years. Not because there was such an enormous number of pieces,

but they kept changing form while I was working on them and they had to be reshaped all the time. Many things had to be tried out, only to be discarded later on, so that only the pieces that were absolutely essential were left at the end. It takes a lot of time and work to get a clear picture.

The first puzzle piece was the libretto. The text itself was amazing, and it also contained interesting ideas about the form of the music. To perform a drama about relationships as four sports was inspiring. I liked the text very much, but its sounds demanded a method of working that I wasn’t used to, a light hand. And that took a while to achieve.

The second puzzle piece was the concrete sounds. I searched through the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s enormous sound archive, and discovered many delicate, funny and exciting sounds: red deer on heat, a child’s breathing, rowing, bird cries, various sorts of running water, docks, tigers etc. The song parts had to be tried out against the sounds all the time, and this was where I ran into a PROBLEM. Every time I entered the studio techniques had changed. From analogue to digital, from multichannel tape recorders to computers. HELP! Reading handbooks is not my favourite hobby. To a certain extent I could get help, but to get things exactly the way I wanted I had to do most of the work myself.

Finally I composed the movements for string orchestra, fast, forceful and exad. They had been maturing for a long ti me.

AT LAST, the recording sessions! Which were a great joy, with committed, playful singers and a choir and orchestra that sang and played for all they were worth.

Finally, two weeks editing work in the studio, where all the puzzle pieces were fitted into place, and voilà – A Passion Play!

5th March 2001
Karin Rehnqvist


About a Passion Play

An attempt to recount what hoppens when madness reigns, when passion is so indescribable that the story can only be told in other terms – in the form of four sports, for example. That is the basis of my libretto.

How two men and two women are hit by passion, by their own passion and their loved one’s passion for someone else, and how people around them witness their passion, how it becomes a sport, a game or a drama.

Parts of the text have already been used on the stage, in a dramatised form in the mid-sixties, and the story of Arthur Fitzgerald has cropped up in several of my plays, in various versions and guises.

Staffan Olzon




Previous post ON A DISTANT SHORE